the legendary artist Annette Nancarrow
by Patrick Bradbury
February 05, 2021
Everything I have read about the artist Annette Nancarrow, and the stories I have heard from her granddaughters, Annette and Phoebe Stephens, paint a picture of a vibrant woman whose life was a work of art.
Annette Nancarrow was born in New York city, studied art at Hunter and earned a masters in fine art from Colombia University. She was married to a prominent lawyer and lived on Riverside Drive. She also kept an apartment in the village on Barrow Street, under a different name. This was the 1930's and Annette was in her mid twenties. She would write her story her way.
In 1935, she and her husband took their first trip to Mexico to visit her husband's friend Louis Stephens. Taken by the country and by Mr. Stephens, Annette made two more trips to Mexico that year. She never returned to her life on Riverside Drive or her first husband.
In Mexico, she apprenticed with Orozco and assisted in painting the mural "Four Horsemen of the Apacolypse" at the oldest Catholic Chapel on the continent. She befriended Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and gave them her pet spider monkey, Quismalona. Surely the little monkey turned up in Kahlo's work.
She was friends with Anais Nin, rented her Acapulco home to Norman Mailer, had her portrtait painted by Orozco and several other prominent artists. She continued to paint and was awarded a prize for the mural in the photo above. She create sculptures from "liberated" pre-Columbian artifacts. Some of these sculptures became jewelry that was worn by Anais Nin, Frida Kahlo, Peggy Guggenheim, Elena Rubenstien, and Dorothy Miller. Her jewelry was also shown at The Museum of Modern Art next to the jewelry of Calder and Dali.
I am so honored to be able to present the work of Annette Nancarrow and to share a few stories of a life lived fully, without borders, and outside of the confines placed on women, then and now.
Special thanks to the talented Annette and Phoebe Stephens, who are formidable artists in their own right, for sharing the stories and the artistry of their family.